Reflection from IMPACT's Executive Director
Earlier this month, more than 200 community members gathered to help make our IMPACT Now! event a tremendous success! Many of the people gathered were loyal friends of IMPACT, but we were also excited to see many new faces. Some of us had participated in more than 20 different book groups that were held throughout the county in the weeks leading up to the event. And all of us were inspired and challenged by our keynote speaker, Peter Block, whose central message was around the importance of strengthening social fabric and reclaiming neighborliness.
Both in Peter’s remarks and his book Abundant Community, he shared several powerful ideas on how to strengthen our social fabric – which we at IMPACT believe is essential to a thriving multicultural community. One key idea is that “we need to come together in a different way, and shift and change our conversations. We need to stop focusing on deficiencies and needs, and focus instead on people’s gifts and possibilities.” Peter went further to say “there is no such thing as a poor person….the social capital and the woundedness of our culture will not get changed through charity or advice.”
At IMPACT, the kind of gift-orientation that Peter talks about is central to our work as network builders. Among our core values is to focus on people’s strengths and opportunities, and to create the kinds of gathering spaces that actively bring forward everyone’s gifts and talents. We create spaces where people can come together to build relationships that are mutual and reciprocal, because we believe that everyone has something to offer others, and something they need from others. Through our gift-centered approach, we are witnesses to an inspiring array of talents, skills, and actions that are being activated across our network by neighborhood residents.
One example is the East County Community Circle, which has been going strong for the past 3 years. It is comprised of residents living in the neighborhoods serviced by the East County Regional Services Center, including Briggs Chaney. The Circle boasts some 15 core members who are increasing and strengthening their social connections, building upon existing community assets, and working collaboratively to achieve action projects they care about. Examples of projects include community clean-ups; family fitness events; the launch of a network to support seniors aging-in-place; and an effort to re-open the Maydale Nature Center.
These notions of focusing on gifts and strengthening our social connections are taking root not just in Silver Spring, but around the nation. On the day before the event, I came across a timely article by the New York Times columnist David Brooks that touted the power of strong social connections and the urgent need to re-weave and repair our social fabric at the community level – as a necessary ingredient for actualizing our individual sense of efficacy and worth, and for restoring the health and well-being of our nation. And then the week after IMPACT Now!, Brooks wrote a separate piece that pointed to how the weakening of social fabric has contributed to the political polarization and dysfunction that we see unfolding in our presidential campaign.
Back here in Silver Spring and Montgomery County, we know that we have a lot of work to do – and we have been heartened by the enthusiastic response to both the Abundant Community Reading Campaign, and IMPACT NOW! Peter’s message clearly resonated with many of you, which fuels our hope that change is possible. To keep the energy and momentum going, please join us for our first annual network meeting on June 8th from 6 to 8 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building. At this gathering, you will have the opportunity to hear directly from residents about their actions and accomplishments, connect with a diverse cross-section of the community, and continue the community conversations started at IMPACT NOW! More details on the annual meeting will be coming soon.
We are grateful to all of you who have joined us on this journey. Together, we look forward to building upon Peter’s message of gifts, possibilities, and abundance. See you at the annual meeting!